Rocky Wood, Lisa Morton, and Greg Chapman – the two authors and the artist of Witch Hunts – finally met in person during the recent World Horror Convention in Portland, Oregon. Rocky and Greg both flew all the way from Australia to the U.S., where they met up with Lisa for this shared portrait:
Adventures in Censorship
A blog post by Rocky Wood, 29 May 2013
On Tuesday US time Facebook notified Lisa Morton, Greg Chapman and myself that the Facebook page for our graphic novel, ‘Witch Hunts: A Graphic History of the Burning Times’ had been suspended as someone had complained it contained ‘bullying’. We could appeal. Lisa did so. Without any further communication the page was deleted for not matching ‘community standards’ and to top it all off we were all banned as owners of the page from posting on Facebook for 12 hours.
I have fought censorship all my life and now this insult from a faceless corporation which shelters behind US law but has no respect for the First Amendment. There was nothing on our page which is not in our book. We deal with an historic tragedy – the torture and killing of innocents for centuries under the guise of ‘witch hunting’. Our book is a nominee for a major literary Award from a highly reputable writers group. And not one post one our page could be classed as ‘bullying’ anyone, except perhaps the long dead inquisitors and witch hunters who so savagely hunted ‘witches’ (read those cast out of society, those who lands or wealth were coveted, and those who fell under the dead eye of jealous neighbors).
One encounters soft core porn, outrageous personal abuse, bullying, misogyny, misanthropy, racism, hate speech from and against Christians, Muslims and other groups on Facebook without even trying. Facebook infests my News Feed with ads for sex sites and ‘dating sites’ that are clearly a cover for porn, and invites me to Like or get involved with many things that offend me. Yet I accept this is part of free speech on social media. I have been abused and personally vilified on Facebook – my answer is to delete and block the person. I don’t run to momma and cry on her apron strings.
But here is the real nub of the matter. Why was this page deleted? Did one crazy person complain and if so, are all our pages at risk from lone vigilantes supported by this faceless corporation, which clearly uses algorithms rather than people to manage its business? Is Horror itself at risk in Facebook (for much horror is a lot more graphic than our book)? Is History that doesn’t suit the world view of some at risk on Facebook? Or can say one author who doesn’t like another author or their work sabotage their pages in this manner? I wouldn’t expect that was what had happened here but what’s to stop that in the 1984 world of Facebook?
How far is it from Facebook deleting innocuous pages such as ours to book banning, and book burning? That slope is very slippery. I unreservedly condemn Facebook’s capricious actions, lack of transparency in dealing with complaints, and the outrageous censorship they have indulged in.
Barely two weeks before a book I am very proud of is a nominee at a major Award ceremony the Facebook page is removed. There is more than a little irony in Facebook figuratively burning our page at the stake. For those who care about Censorship I would appreciate your sharing this story. For this who support our book, please be sure we will be back. In the meantime our website remains at http://www.witchhuntsbook.com/ (at least until such time as Facebook or other Internet censors find a way to remove it).
Shame on you Facebook. And the next time you spam me with your offensive ads or try to force me to spend money promoting my own posts you can be sure of my reaction.
We’re honored that Creature Feature has chosen Witch Hunts as one of its Top Ten books of 2012. We’re in the company of books by these amazing talents: Elizabeth Bear, Bruce Boston, Mort Castle, Gary William Crawford, Ellen Datlow, Benjamin Kane Ethridge, Elizabeth Massie, Joe McKinney, Joseph S. Pulver, Sr., Joshua Skye, Sam Weller, and Terri Windling. We couldn’t be prouder (special thanks to J. L. Comeau).
We’d originally envisioned closing out Witch Hunts: A Graphic History of the Burning Times with an appendix that would illustrate how the witch persecutions created the popular image of the witch in culture. We ended up agreeing with our editor that the appendix was just too different from the rest of the book and should be cut…but it makes for interesting enough reading that we’ve decided to offer it as a stand-alone document. Check it out at Scribd.
At his “Chin Wag at the Slaughterhouse” blog site, Richard Godwin has just posted an in-depth interview with Rocky Wood, in which they discuss some of the background behind the writing of Witch Hunts, Rocky’s work as one of the world’s leading experts on Stephen King, and Rocky’s accomplishments as President of the Horror Writers Association. Thanks to Richard for this fascinating and insightful interview.
For our Australian friends: Rocky Wood and Greg Chapman will be signing Witch Hunts at Notions Unlimited Bookshop on August 4th at 4 p.m. The books will also include bookplates signed by co-author Lisa Morton. Notions Unlimited is at Shop 9, Chelsea Beach Arcade, 426 Nepean Hwy, Chelsea, Victoria, Australia 3196. Rocky and Greg will have their other books available for purchase as well.
If you’re in the U.S., the Iliad Bookshop in North Hollywood will have copies signed by Lisa Morton (we hope to soon have book plates for these copies signed by Rocky and Greg). Contact Iliad at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
I love graphic novels. I’ve been reading them since a British magician named Alan Moore plucked my head right off and set it back on my shoulders permanently skewed. I’ve never been much for typical superheros, but give me something by Moore, Daniel Clowes, Robert Kirkman or Brian K. Vaughan and I’m a happy reader.
Of course this would mean that I’ve been pondering writing my own graphic novel for years. That little matter of finding a great artist kind of always stood in the way, though. Well, that and time. And finding a publisher for the finished product. Okay, there were a lot of reasons I never did it.
Until Rocky Wood approached me in 2010 and asked if I would consider working with him on one. He’d just finished the absolutely incredible Horrors! Great Tales of Fear and Their Creators, and was about to embark on a second one with the same publisher (McFarland). Because he’d just been diagnosed with ALS (or Lou Gehrig’s Disease), he was concerned about his ability to finish the book.
I get a lot of offers these days, but that was one I didn’t have to think twice about. The subject of the witch persecutions was of great interest to me (and something I’d already studied a bit of, thanks to my Halloween books), I loved the idea of working with Rocky, and the publisher (McFarland and Co.) and artist (Greg Chapman) were already in place.
I’d already studied graphic novel and comic book scripts before I agreed to work on Witch Hunts. I had Alan Moore’s book Writing for Comics, and I had a few other editions of things that included the scripts. I immediately saw that while writing for the “sequential narrative” was somewhat similar to screenwriting – a format I’m well versed in, since I make part of my living as a screenwriter – it allowed for more stylistic flexibility. I was most affected by Moore’s style, which was insanely detailed. Moore didn’t, for example, just describe a street; no, he described every person on the street, what they were doing, what they were thinking, what color their clothes were, which direction they were walking, etc.
Rocky had already written the first chapter of Witch Hunts, and had created a simple template using color codes (thanks to Word’s “Highlighting” feature) that would help Greg distinguish description from text and dialogue (and I’m sorry WordPress doesn’t allow me to recreate our color codes!). Here is Rocky’s script for one page:
TEXT: Following the Feast of St Francis, a particular case came to Court. They had carried Mischief and other things to church, so that everyone believed it to be children. But they had left their children at home and ate them later.
PICTURE: Okay, try this: we have a one page picture split down the middle from say top right to bottom left (maybe by a lightning shape but over to you).
The left half of the picture relates to the text above and shows a couple coming into a small church with two children. But somehow they are not quite real children – you will show something weird in each – perhaps their limbs are out of proportion, or their head is too large/small and if we see their faces they look vacant.
The right half of the picture relates to the text below and shows a great metal cooking pot over a fire and a couple serving up hot food at a rough table to a few other adults. There are no children in the picture but you will slyly hide a severed leg or arm somewhere in the background (or whatever you think will work best).
TEXT: They had killed their own children and cooked them, and took them to their company to eat them. They were found out and we sent them to the Fires.
And here is the finished page:
I tried to keep some of the stylistic details Rocky had already set up (for instance, using “Look upon” to begin sections), while letting a little of my own style creep in. Here is my script for page 86:
TEXT: Finally, in 1593, the executions in Trier ended only when the city and its people were too impoverished to continue, the population had too much diminished, and food became scarce because farmers had been among those burned at the many stakes.
PICTURE: This one should be very dramatic: A plough lies forgotten at the edge of a cleared field; the plough looks old and splintered, and it’s tilted in a way that suggests it might be broken. The plough is simple – little more than two long, sturdy wooden handles that connect to a large triangular metal blade, which is half-buried in the soiled. Half of the field had been ploughed, and we can still make out the long furrows; but the other half was never finished, and is already sprouting weeds. In the middle distance, beyond the field, is a river; and glimpsed just past the river is the city of Trier…where three people are being burned at the stake, in an open plaza near the river’s edge. A faceless crowd surrounds the three pyres, and smokes billows into the air, obscuring part of our view of the city
And once again, the finished page:
I think particular applause is owed to Greg for his splendid job of working through the frequently complicated descriptions we threw at him, and managing to meld the work of two different writers into one cohesive whole.
I still hope to write more graphic novels someday, but in the meantime I’m very proud of what Rocky, Greg and I created with Witch Hunts. If you include the research, it took many months to write, and I hope you’ll agree that the end product was worth it.
Witch Hunts: A Graphic History of the Burning Times isn’t the only new book that Rocky Wood, Lisa Morton and Greg Chapman have out. Don’t miss these other titles:
Rocky Wood – Stephen King: Uncollected, Unpublished – now available in a revised and expanded 2012 edition from Overlook Connection. There are a multitude of interesting updates in the revised edition of the classic book about King’s “hidden” work. This edition is likely to prove to be the definitive book about King’s uncollected, unpublished and lost works. Included in the new information are a series of newly discovered unpublished works, for many of which Rocky was able to secure Stephen King’s exclusive and definitive statements about how they originated, and why they never saw the light of day. Many of these quotes are entertaining and even controversial.
Lisa Morton – Wild Girls was a three-day sensation when offered as an e-book, and readers loved the wild ride! Now offered for the first time in an affordable signed & limited hardcover edition (the e-book is no longer available). Jessie and Dens are two roomies in a small southern town who like movies, drinking, collecting glittery stickers…and the occasional killing spree. When novice reporter Noelle begins to put high heels together with certain puncture wounds, is she about to make a move up to a major paper…or become the next victim? Order your copy now from Bad Moon Books.
“…a fun and gruesome novella…Highly recommended!” – Rhonda Wilson, MonsterLibrarian.com
Greg Chapman – The Noctuary is an acclaimed and compelling novella by the multi-talented Greg. Struggling writer Simon Ryan’s life has gone to Hell. Shadows are pouring into his reality and his words are not his own anymore. He has been chosen to become a scribe for some of the worst creatures of the Underworld–the ones whose sole purpose is to torment human souls–The Dark Muses. As Simon writes he falls deeper into the abyss and before long he has no sense of what is real. With the help of another scribe, old and mutilated, Simon comes to discover that his writing can mould people and places–that he can write things out of existence. To become a scribe he has to pass a test and the Muses offer him a chance to rewrite his horrible past. All Simon has to decide is how the story ends. The Noctuary is now available from Damnation Books.
Greg has been hard at work again, and has come up with poster #4! Don’t forget to check out the Gallery page for more of Greg’s fantastic work.